Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A Quick Book Review (1)

In my quest to learn all there is to know about the Defacto Spouse Visa application process, I bought a couple of books.

The first: "Didgeridoos & Didgerdon'ts - a Brit's Guide to moving your life Down Under" by Vicky Gray describes itself on the back-cover blurb as: "a collection of short, personal experiences Vicky Gray and her family encountered during the first year or their new life down under. In addition to entertaining diary entries, inspirational stories from other expats, top tips and vital resources, the book is crammed full of well-researched information on everything you need to know to survive and thrive during your first year in Australia. Inside you will learn:

* How to get into Australia - step-by-step
* Which occupations are in demand right now
* What stuff you should definitely take with you
* The ins-and-outs of taking your pets
* All you need to know about Australia's banks
* How the school system works from day care up
* How to use Australia's healthcare system
* What's involved in getting a job and paying tax
* All about renting property in Australia
* How to buy a house - and why it's easy in Oz
* The little differences - from shopping to driving
* much, much more..."

And to be fair to the book, it does just that.  It is well written, informative and funny.  Each chapter is well laid out with both the hard facts and Vicky's family experiences.  Throughout the book links to useful websites are provided.  Overall it is a completely enjoyable read.

I only have one criticism and that is the book's RRP, which is £14.97 - a few pence less if you get it from Amazon.  I'm all for supporting the independent book publishers and authors but 15 quid feels really expensive for 188 pages of large font, that can easily be read cover-to-cover in a couple of hours.

My reccomendation would be buy-it read it, then stick it back on Amazon marketplace as almost new.  Sorry Vicky.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Certified Copies

After submitting the initial payment and forms to the Migration Agents dealing with my Defacto Spouse Visa application, they set me two pieces of homework: 

The first was to write a declaration of the circumstances surrounding how I came to have a criminal record and to obtain character references from a couple of people who can vouch for me as being an upstanding citizen.

The second was to gather together evidence of the relationship between my partner and myself.

Which sounds easy enough.  That is, if you haven't moved house during the relationship or ever had a spring clean.  Most of our old joint bills (such as Council Tax, Utility or Bank Statements) - which are considered strong evidence of a relationship by DIAC - had long since been shredded.  Some applicants struggle to find enough documentary proof to demonstrate that they've been co-habiting for the required minimum of 12 months.  Luckily in our case, we've been together for the best part of a decade - there just isn't anything to show our financial entaglement for the first two years of our relationship.

Having identified a selection of documents, the next step is to get them photocopied and then "Certified as True Copies of the Original".  The people who can do this for you are: a notary, commissioner for oaths, police officer, bank manager, solicitor or magistrate.  Not knowing either a friendly policeman or bank manager, I was left with the option of having to pay for the privilege.

A quick ring around my local solicitors and I had quotes of between £5 per sheet of copy and £220 for an hour of solicitor's time.  Both options seemed a bit pricey, especially as I would still have to do the actual photocopying myself.  With budget in mind I contacted my local Magistrates court, who offered me a price of £5 per sheet for the first 10 copies and then 50p for all subsequent copies - again this wouldn't include the actual copying.

I made the cost conscious choice and the next day found myself in the lobby of local Magistrates court.  Having been through the metal detector and queued amongst a varied group of shell-suited, Adidas wearing, tattooed and sovereign ring decorated customers of the court I was directed to hand over my cheque - at the window normally reserved for the payment of fines.  Here there seemed to be some confusion between the price I was quoted (£52) and the price the clerk calculated I should pay (£77), fortunately common sense prevailed and he agreed to honour the lower of the two.

With my receipt as proof of payment, an officer of the court took my stack of papers from me, directed me to take seat (once more amongst the other court customers) and wait to be called into court.  I have to admit that I started to feel a little nervous - like feeling sick in a doctors waiting room - listening to teenage girls asking for the duty solicitor so that they could discuss their assault charges made it seem like I was going on trial.

Eventually my name was called and I was ushered in to the court, where to my suprise the cerification had already taken place.  Almost.  Apparently they were not prepared to certify documents which are clearly already a copy or are difficult to prove as originals (I had a couple of letters from my bank which were black & white and did not have a human signature).

All-in-all it took me an hour and half to save £20, which seemed a false economy as four sheet's didn't get certified and I wasn't refunded for these.  Next time I think I'll use a solicitor.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Getting some help

Having read books, forums and even magazines I've decided that I am going to enlist the aid of a migration agent to deal with my Defacto Spouse Visa application.  Were my application completely straightforward I would have gone on alone, but..... my previously undeclared criminal record is niggling at the back of my mind.  Twice I've ticked the "No Convictions" box on entering Australia, this apparently causes an immediate character issue.  Who'd have thought they keep those cards anyway?

I don't think will cause me a problem, but having read everything available I'm not sure how to correctly disposition what was a well intentioned lie.  This is where I'm promised a migration agent will benefit me.   Anecdotally, I read a story where DIAC pulled out a landing card from the 1970s to prove a point to a would be applicant who hadn't fully declared his convictions.

There are literally dozens of migration agents who can manage your application, your choice should be limited only to those that are registered with MARA (Migration Agents Registration Authority).  In my case I opted for Go Matilda!, mainly because I can't find a bad word written about them.

P.S. If you're even considering using an agent, get some recommendations beforehand.  Any Migration Agent worthy of his/her title will give you a free 15-20 minute consulation to help understand your visa options.